What is H1N1 flu?
H1N1 flu is a contagious infection caused by a new strain of influenza A virus, which affects the upper respiratory system—nose, throat and lungs. Initially, H1N1 flu was known as Swine flu because researchers found that viruses that affect humans are found in swine or pigs. Further research has proved that the H1N1 virus is related to two types of viruses found in pigs in Europe and Asia. One of these affects birds (H5N1) while the other affects humans.
How Do You Get H1N1 Flu?
Unlike the common myth, swine flu is not acquired by eating pork or pork products. It’s usually acquired from coming in contact with a person who is infected with the H1N1 virus, by contacting something that has the virus on it—either by sharing food or drink or using the same eating utensils—or being in close proximity to the infected person while he or she is speaking, sneezing or coughing. The germs get into the air and a nearby person breathes them in. Or, once the germs get on your hands you spread the germs by touching your eyes, nose, mouth or eyes.
Symptoms of H1N1 Flu
The flu often starts with chills, followed by a fever, muscle aches, headache, a sore throat, a cough, a runny nose, and a general feeling of illness. The symptoms of H1N1 flu are similar to those of the regular flu (influenza). Symptoms start only after three to five days after being exposed to the virus. Symptoms can continue for up to 8 days. Symptoms are:
- Dry Cough
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose
- Chills and moderate to high fever—102-103 degrees F
- Muscle aches, including back ache
- Generalized fatigue
Most symptoms go away after 2 or 3 days. However, fever sometimes lasts up to 5 days. The possible complications include pneumonia, dehydration, or worsening of a chronic illness. Children may get sinus problems or ear infections.
How Can You Avoid Getting the Flu?
By following these tips you can reduce your risk of getting the flu.
- Wash your hands often, especially before eating or after being in a public place.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
- Exercise regularly to keep your body and heart healthy.
- Get enough sleep to help your body function better.
- Most importantly, get a flu vaccine before the flu season starts.
H1N1 Flu Vaccines
There is a vaccine for swine flu. Influenza vaccinations are available in shots and nasal spray. These vaccinations are very safe, though there could be very mild side effects with it. The flu shot might cause slight fever, tiredness, or sore muscle at the injection site. The nasal spray may cause headache, runny nose, cough or sore throat for a short while.
Who should get the influenza vaccine?
- Anyone 50 years of age or older
- Children 6 months to 5 years old
- Residents of long-term care facilities
- Adults and children who are 6 months old or older and who have diabetes, a chronic heart or lung disorder, kidney failure, certain blood disorders, or a weakened immune system
- Family members and caregivers of people in the above groups
- Family members and caregivers of children younger than 6 months old
- Doctors and health care workers
- Pregnant women
- Children younger than 18 years old and regularly take aspirin (who are at risk of Reye’s syndrome if they develop influenza)
The following people should not get the flu shot as it could have adverse affects:
- Babies less than 6 months old
- People who had allergic reactions or Guillain-Barré Syndrome after getting flu shot previously
- People who are allergic to eggs
- People who are already suffering from other illnesses and have fever
The following group of people should avoid getting the nasal spray:
- Kids under two years old.
- Adults over age 50
- Anyone suffering from diabetes, kidney, lung, or heart diseases or any other chronic illness
- Anyone with a past history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome
- Children on long-term aspirin therapy
- Pregnant women
- Anyone with a weak immune system
- Those who have had an allergic reaction to flu a vaccine in the past
- Those who are allergic to eggs
How to avoid spreading the flu?
People with flu-like symptoms should stay home, cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing, and wash their hands frequently. People who have been in close contact with someone who has H1N1 flu may be given antiviral drugs.
Use the following tips to avoid spreading the swine flu if you are already infected with it.
- Use tissues to cover your nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing
- Throw used tissues in the waste bin
- Stay out of work or school
- Try to avoid people even at home
- Avoid sharing food or drink or even the utensils
- Avoid sharing other personal items also, like equipments, soaps, makeup etc.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth as far as possible
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water to keep germs away or use antibacterial cleansers
Treatment usually focuses on treating the symptoms. Acetaminophen or aspirin can relieve headaches and fever in adults. Never give aspirin to children. Try to get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids.
Depending on your health status, and if your symptoms and circumstances clearly indicate the presence of the H1N1 virus, your doctor may start treatment immediately with an antiviral flu medications such as amantadine, oseltamivir, rimantadine, and zanamavir. By taking these medications within 48 hours from infection, you lessen the symptoms considerably as well as lessen the spread of the virus to others. However, most healthy people with the flu get better without the use of antiviral medications. Antivirals are usually only given to the following group of people:
- Those who are severely ill or those who have been hospitalized for treatment.
- Those over the age of 65 or below the age of 2.
- Those with shortness of breath.
- Those under the age of 19 and suffering from long-term illnesses such as diabetes or asthma.
Speeding up Your Recovery
In order to speed up your recovery, call your doctor as soon as you feel sick or have symptoms of the H1N1 flu. Medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen can be taken to relieve the symptoms of fever, aches, and pains. However, patients under the age of 18 should not be given aspirin as this can cause Reye’s syndrome, which is a very serious illness that can become fatal. Finally, the patient should drink plenty of fluids and get as much rest as possible. This will help the body to strengthen the immune system to fight the virus and get back to normal sooner.
When to Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you or a family member has symptoms that seem severe or are causing you concern. You should see a doctor right way if you have:
- symptoms that get worse such as a high fever, shaking, or chills
- coughing that produces yellow mucus
- nausea or vomiting
- shortness of breath
- chest or abdominal pain
- sudden dizziness
Take you child to a doctor immediately if they:
- have blue lips or skin
- are not drinking enough fluids
- are breathing rapidly or with difficulty
- are unusually drowsy or irritable (including not wanting to be held)
- have a fever with a rash
People at high risk of severe complications should contact a doctor if even mild symptoms develop, as well as for children under 5 years old and pregnant women. If a fever and a worse cough develop in anyone after flu-like symptoms disappear, call your doctor.